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2015 Alabama-West Florida Conference

 

The 2015 Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference was held May 31-June 3 in Montgomery, Alabama, with the theme, “The Great Commission: Nurturing Disciples.” Bishop Paul L. Leeland, presiding over his seventh annual conference session since becoming the resident bishop, welcomed clergy and lay members to Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church in Montgomery.

Imagine No Malaria was the beneficiary of the 2015 missional offering. Churches from within the conference have been working towards the goal of saving one hundred thousand lives since January, 2014. Sheri Altland, campaign director with Imagine No Malaria, was welcomed to our conference and gave a brief presentation at the opening worship service. At this service, $91,602 was collected. To date, 93,361 lives have been saved! Six of the eight districts are well above their 100 percent goal. To continue tracking progress visit www.awfumc.org/INMProgress.

The opening worship service of the 2015 Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference session was held Sunday evening, May 31, in the sanctuary of Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Bishop Mike Lowry of the Central Texas Conference preached the sermon based on Psalm 89:5-18 and Acts 12:1-17 titled, “Stuck by the Story.” He told of God transforming the lives of entire communities proclaiming, “Christ still reigns!” He also expressed that one of the most encouraging things going on across the Christian community is the reawakening and recovery of spiritual formation and small groups for prayer and Bible study. A mass choir from around the conference, led by Wayne Sigler of Frazer, provided inspiring music for the service including moving renditions of, “By Faith,” “Forevermore” and “Say Amen.” The Old Testament lesson was read by the Rev. Enrique Escobar and Amber Shirley gave the Gospel lesson. Robert McMichael and Jarvis Wilson, talented worship leaders from the Atlanta area, were inspiring additions to conference this year and led an inspirational and spirit-filled worship medley.

Thirty-three clergy and clergy spouses who had passed since the 2014 Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference session were remembered today during the Service of Remembrance and Holy Communion. Bishop Paul L. Leeland offered the opening prayer and the Rev. Spencer Turnipseed of Point Washington United Methodist Church delivered the inspiring and uplifting sermon based on Joshua 4:1-7 titled, “Meaning in Stones.” A capacity crowd remembered those that have given many years of service to the conference. Robert McMichael and Jarvis Wilson provided comforting music through their rendition of, “If You Could See Me Now.” The Rev. Virginia Kagoro gave the Epistle lesson, Revelation 12:1-6a. Surviving family members were hosted at a special luncheon by the Africa West-Florida Commission on Archives and History.

Fifteen clergy were recognized upon their retirement by the Rev. Jim Sanders during Monday’s order of the day. Together, the retiring clergy have over 440 years of service in our conference. The Rev. Neil McDavid spoke on behalf of the retiring class. A reception was held Monday afternoon in honor of the retiring clergy.

The Service of Commissioning and Ordination was held Monday evening in the sanctuary of Montgomery First United Methodist Church. The congregation represented family members and special friends of those being commissioned and ordained. Prior to the start of the service, the cathedral choir of Montgomery First United Methodist Church presented worshipful music led by Jack Horner. The service included the commissioning of two provisional deacons and six provisional elders and the ordination of one deacon in full connection and four elders in full connection. Bishop Mike Lowry of the Central Texas Conference preached a sermon titled, “No Reservation, No Retreat, No Regret” based on Psalm 46:1-3 and Acts 28:30-31. The average age of those being commissioned and ordained is 40.

The conference was honored by the outstanding leadership of several guest speakers. The Rev. Jorge Acevedo, from Grace Church in the Florida Conference, led two Bible study sessions. Bishop Mike Lowry of the Central Texas Conference preached the opening worship service and the Service of Commissioning and Ordination. We welcomed Sheri Atland, Campaign Director with Imagine No Malaria and Marcus McKinney from the Historic Black Colleges. Drexel Gilbert gave the Mary Ellen Bullard Leadership Address at this year's laity banquet. 

The Rev. Jackie Slaughter and The Rev. Brian Miller led the conference in a poignant moment where we honored the history and significance of the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march. Slaughter welcomed special guests that played a part in the original march and the anniversary march. They also read a narrative representing the words of those who were present and recalled the events of that historic weekend. The conference participated in a responsive litany and prayer that can be found online here. An emotional, collective singing of “The Lord’s Prayer” concluded this very meaningful order of the day on Tuesday afternoon. 

Several awards were given to recognize outstanding leadership and service in the conference. The Rev. Sheila Bates, on staff at the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, received the Francis Asbury Award and Helen Edwards of Church Street United Methodist Church received the Alice Lee Award. There were three recipients of the Denman Evangelism Award: The clergy winner is the Rev. German Gomez of the San Juan Mission at Clanton First United Methodist Church. Lay recipient is Cameron Winton of Woodlawn United Methodist Church and the youth recipient is Sydney Wilson of Millbrook First United Methodist Church. Ruth Ann Powers was honored with the first annual Susanna Wesley Leadership Award at the Laity Banquet. 

As a result of a proposal from the floor of the 2014 Annual Conference, a task force was formed to explore the number of districts in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. The Rev. Shirley Woodie recognized those on the committee and updated the conference that they have examined many factors such as the number of churches and clergy in each district and how many districts are in other conferences. The next goal is to obtain systematic and broad-based input from clergy and laity in the conference. The committee has developed an anonymous online survey. All clergy under appointment will receive a copy as well as lay leaders, chairs of staff-parish relations committees and chair people of administrative boards and church councils. The committee will complete an analysis over the next few months and will make a recommendation at 2016 Annual Conference. 

The 2016 General and Jurisdictional Delegation was elected at this year’s conference. The delegates are:
General Conference Delegation
Steve Furr, laity
Pat Luna, laity
Beverly Maddox, laity
Clara Ester, laity
Dawn Hare, laity
Lawson Bryan, clergy
Larry Bryars, clergy
Jeremy Pridgeon, clergy
Robin Wilson, clergy
John Brooks, clergy

Jurisdictional Conference Delegation:
Frank Moore, laity
Robert Powell, laity
Frank Dunnewind, laity
Tripp Gulledge, laity
Gene Floore, laity
June Jernigan, clergy
Rurel Ausley, clergy
Cory Smith, clergy
Tonya Elmore, clergy
Emily Kincaid, clergy
Susan Hunt, laity alternate
Antonius Barnes, laity alternate
Duane Keck, laity alternate
Paulette Thompson, laity alternate
Dan Morris, clergy alternate
Jackie Slaughter, clergy alternate
Allen Newton, clergy alternate
Rob Couch, clergy alternate

Fourteen petitions and two resolutions passed before the annual conference. Copies of those approved resolutions may be found here

The conference established a $10.9 million budget for mission and ministry for 2016, a 0.4 percent reduction from 2015. 

Membership stands at 139,918, down 1 percent from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 63,781 down 2 percent. Some areas that showed increases were small groups, people served by community ministries and vacation Bible school participation. Children, youth and adults in Christian formation increased again this year. There was a 1.6 percent increase in missional giving, which is the greatest increase since 2005.

An estimated 3,269 health kits were collected over the course of the annual conference, and 1,460 school kits, plus other supplies, were collected. We welcomed approximately 100 health plan participants to the wellness screenings on Monday and Tuesday. 

The clergy appointments for 2015-2016 may be found online here.

The 2016 session of the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference will be held June12-15, 2016, at Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Montgomery First United Methodist Church will host the Ordination Service. We express our sincere appreciation to these churches’ staff members for their outstanding hospitality.

A downloadable pdf recap that can be used in your upcoming church bulletins can be found here. Full coverage of the 2015 Alabama West-Florida Annual Conference may be found at www.awfumc.org/ac2015. To see photos taken by Luke Lucas, click here.

Mary Catherine Phillips Director of Communications, Alabama-West Florida Conference